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How the USC Trojans Became the Big Ten's Great "Unifier"

Rick McMahan@@RickMcMahanSenior Writer IAugust 18, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 13:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the USC Trojans looks on while taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes during the college football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 13, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

There is a strange movement afoot in America's heartland.

Once and still bitter rivals in the Midwest have locked arms and with a single voice have sounded the signal of support for one of their brethren.

When Ohio State takes the field on Sept. 12 at the Horseshoe, they will carry with them the honor and dignity of the entire Big Ten conference.

Now, it can't be overlooked that the Big Ten needs this victory by the Buckeyes. The road to reclaiming its national respectability would be paved by a win on that day.

The Big Ten conference, needless to say, has taken it on the chin over the last few years. It is a proud conference with an incredible legacy, but one that has suffered ignoble defeats with alarming regularity recently.

So a victory by the Buckeyes on that day would be huge, and it would be celebrated throughout the entire conference.

The focus of all this Big Ten unanimity is the USC Trojans.

The Trojans perfectly fit the bill as the cure for the Big Ten's national return to prominence if the Buckeyes can prevail on Sept. 12.

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The USC Trojans are very well respected by the rest of the college football world as a powerhouse.

The Trojans will enter the game at the Horseshoe on an NCAA record seven-year run of top five finishes and 11-plus-victory seasons.

For the 2009 season, the Trojans have a preseason ranking of No. 4. This is after losing 11 players drafted to the NFL.

In addition, USC has gained a national reputation for not only playing the best, but also beating them. Since 2002, Pete Carroll has lost nine games, including bowl games.

A Buckeye victory over the Trojans will immediately force the rest of the nation to sit up and take notice.

But there is more to it than that.

The Trojans are the Big Ten's nightmareβ€”Freddy Krueger in cleats.

Since 2002, USC is 6-0 against teams from the Big Ten, including 5-0 in bowl games. Along the way, they have outscored their Big Ten opponents 220-93.

Included in this record is USC's 35-3 beatdown of the Buckeyes at the Coliseum last year.

Now, back to USC being the great unifier of the Big Ten.

I have read in numerous places that all of the teams of the Big Ten are pulling for the Buckeyes in this game.

In perusing multiple sports web sites, including ESPN, Sporting News, CBS, and Fox Sports, I have seen comments by columnists suggesting the importance of this game as a beginning for the healing of the Big Ten's reputation.

I have read comments from Michigan fans giving their support to the hated Buckeyes for this game.

One columnist that covers Ohio State football has gone so far as to say it is the most important game in the history of the conference.

I'm not sure about that, but what I know for sure is that on Sept. 12, Big Ten fans will cozy up to their television sets and do the unthinkable.

Root for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Can it happen? Will the Buckeyes beat the mighty Trojans and start the Big Ten on the road to redemption?

That is tough to say. USC is loaded as usual, and Pete Carroll feels very good about this year's version of the Trojans.

Big Ten faithful will point to USC's graduation losses with hope and suggest that Terrelle Pryor's incredible athleticism and talented mates have what it takes to topple the Trojans. Playing at home in front of 95,000-plus fans doesn't hurt either.

Carroll is a social activist who has created a foundation called "A Better L.A.," which focuses on stemming gang violence and creating opportunities for inner city youth to succeed.

I'm sure it brings a smile to Carroll's face to know that he and the Trojans are bringing so many people together that otherwise would be hated rivals...even if it is only for one game.

I am equally sure that Pete would love to still be smiling when the clock strikes zero at the Horseshoe on Sept. 12.

When it comes to USC football and winning, Pete doesn't mind being a divider rather than a unifier.

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